Vermeulen ruled out

The Stormers will field an unchanged back row this Saturday as Duane Vermeulen has not recovered sufficiently from a knee injury.

It was hoped that Vermeulen would be included at No 8, but coach Allister Coetzee confirmed on Wednesday that the robust loose forward would not be considered.

‘We’ve adopted a day-by-day approach with regards to Duane, and unfortunately he has not kicked on,’ Coetzee said. ‘We decided that it would be unfair to bring him in at this stage of the season and expect him to play at that intensity. It wouldn’t be the right thing to do.’

This means that Deon Fourie will continue at No 8. Siya Kolisi and and Rynhardt Elstadt have been named on the flanks.

‘Deon has been our man of the match in the past two games. It’s true that he’s a very different player to Duane, but we have coped for most of the season without Duane and feel that Deon can do a job for us this Saturday.

‘It’s a settled back row combo. Siya and Rynhardt have been playing their roles well on the flanks, and we believe that it’s a back row that really suits our strengths.’

Changes to the pack sees Eben Etzebeth returning to the second row. Etzebeth hasn’t played for the Stormers since sustaining an ankle injury in the June Tests.

The only other change to the starting side sees Brok Harris replacing Frans Malherbe. Coetzee said the selection was down to Harris’ experience as well as Malherbe’s value as an impact player.

‘It’s a world-class Sharks pack with a number of internationals. Brok is a seasoned campaigner and has started in semi-finals and finals before. We’re happy with what Frans has done for us when he has started, but believe he can play a stronger role from the bench in this match.’

Stormers – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Deon Fourie, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Deon Carstens, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Don Armand, 20 Louis Schrueder, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.

By Jon Cardinelli